Saturday, May 24, 2008

Comic Relief

OK, so a couple friends sent some comic relief to counteract the heavy post of a couple days ago. Thanks, guys!
Here ya go:

Courtesy of Bob Pegritz in Pittsburgh~
Q. What should you do if someone starts to sieze in your bathtub?

A. Throw in the laundry .

And here are two signs from Kate's beloved China, courtesy of and Carrie Van Zant in Kansas City:

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Enough already. Enough. Enough, enough. There is just too much ground breaking going on. In the most literal sense. Winter over, soil soft, garden sprouting - let that be the reason for our dirt being turned. Not this. Enough!
Today we buried our ten-year-old neighbor boy, Ty Kammeyer. His mother, Rebecca, the sister I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with in the soprano section of our church choir, stood at the pulpit and comforted the masses of schoolchildren who sat in the congregation. She was amazing. I watched in my latest state of stunned stupor, wept out and worn out, curious about the motion of life in the humans who surround me. Death does weird things to one's thinking. I watched from my seat in the back as parents' arms wrapped around their grieving children and drew them in. One young girl up and to the left of me sat with friends and curled her arms around herself as her sweet plump lips quivered. Rebecca commented that she believed Ty was as surprised to find himself on the other side of the veil as she was to have him go there. His jump up to heaven was impetuous and sudden.
Monday we buried Lindsey. Spjute, we called her. In line for her viewing Sunday night we stood under two massive chandeliers and waited to greet her family and pay our respects. I imagined Spjute's spirit with a platinum Superman cape over her shoulders, sitting on the rim of one of those chandeliers and getting such a kick out of the crying crowd. Blubber-bums, she called us. She ran to heaven on an early Saturday morning. Felt that burst of speed overcome her and she darted out ahead of her mission companion in a forest in England. Must have seen some stairway to heaven and took it two steps at a time in a full out sprint. Never looked back. The autopsy indicated her body was perfectly healthy. She had run the Ogden Marathon a year ago Saturday. Still, for no apparent reason, she collapsed and died in an instant. I sang Memoria at her graveside. Annie, her friend from childhood, slipped over to me afterwards, laid her head against my chest and sobbed.

That same day we buried Mae Batty, the human smile who greeted faithful saints at the door to our chapel on Sunday mornings. She was a Matriarch, with a capital M, and her family must figure out how to close the large heavy door she left open when she went up.

Thursday I sang at the funeral services for 21 year old Ty Wilde, who died days earlier on his bullet bike. Bullet bikes are not allowed in heaven. Flaming young men curl their fingers tight around their handles and thrust them at the gate. The boys get in, but the bikes slide down to Hell where they belong.

Last week, after a recording session with producer/friend/engineer Mark Stephenson, the heart-whisper that sometimes fizzes up behind my neck told me to sit on Mark's couch and talk. "Help him find the words", it said. So he postponed his next session; sat at his piano and talked about his mother, about her safe and comfortable arms, her confidence in him, her tenderness toward him and his children. I have recorded three albums in the studio housed in Marks childhood home. I feel the memories hovering in the corners of the ceiling. Songs do not usually come fast for me. But before the night came on Mark had his song, and it was his mother,June. He sang it to June on Mother's Day. Days later his father Keith bent over and told June it was OK, she could go, and she drifted up there with Spjute and Ty and Ty and Mae. And Linda, who lived 5 houses away and whose breast cancer insisted she cross over before she could get her petunias planted.
I saw her children and grandchildren bent over her flowerbeds on Mother's Day, turning the soil in her memory. Pink and white and yellow blossoms are starting to appear.
Tonight, in the middle of the bridal shower I was hosting at our house, the phone rang. Our friend Eric told us Hank Wolfgang had been killed in a car accident this morning. Hank was supposed to play the organ at our funerals. When we were teenagers and Hank was in his twenties and newly baptized, he sat on one end of the pew in the Pittsburgh 2nd Ward and our mom sat on the other. We who sat between them could feel the bench shake when some random comment from the pulpit hit Mom and Hank's funny bones at the same time. I'm not sure if Hank is all the way in yet, or if he is checking out the grounds of heaven while his family tries to process the idea of him being there.

OK, so is this enough yet? Are we getting what we're supposed to get? I don't know. I watch the news and a fellow in China crouches against the side of a crumbled school house and rocks back and forth, back and forth, his hand cupped around his forehead, his mouth wide open and silent. I stop myself from comparing the level of suffering and sorrow. We cannot measure such things for each other. In the end it is just me and my God.

Monday, after everyone had left Lindsey's freshly dug grave, the grass attempted to return to its upright position. Against the silence two feet shuffled across the lawn, solitary and slow. They stopped at the side of her grave, and the shadow of a set of bagpipes swept across a pair of dew polished shoes. Young Daniel Eskelsen, mourning the loss of his friend, snapped his elbow against the bladder of his pipes; lifted the mouthpiece to his lips and gave Lindsey Amazing Grace there on the side of the hill. I imagine she liked that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


So today I commit to pick up the study. Those who know my study know what a commitment that would be. So I go from the study to my bedroom closet to put something away, and in the process I am tempted, tempted, tempted to divert my attention. It's a long, long walk. So much between the study and the bedroom: the letter that needs to be mailed sitting on the foyer table; the bag of whatever-it-is that's been hunched over itself on the floor of the family room; my guitar leaning against the hearth; the pile of clean socks on my bed waiting for the right sunlight to match (navy blue and black are too close for the lamplight); everything screams at me..."Come on, do me now!" And that there is the crux of my daily dilemma. Focus. I have a focus problem. Thus I have a chaos problem. CHAOS - Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. That's what people with my disorder call it. But I can't stand not to have anyone over. So there. And NO, I do not particularly love living in a mess, so if you are over and make one...clean it up please! It's hard enough for me to handle my own.
I keep thinking I will change. Like maybe that doozy of a fall I took in Kindergarten gave me some sort of organizational amnesia and I forgot how to do that kind of stuff. Keep thinking it will come back to me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Kate graduated from the University of Utah with two degrees; one in Linguistics and one in International Studies. She carried a minor in Chinese. She will move to Houston TX in a few weeks, where she has secured a position with Teach for America. She will be teaching English as a second language to underprivileged 4th - 8th graders for two years. In the meantime she will also be earning her Masters degree. Check out Teach for America's website, Our pseudo-son, Jason Gardner made his way to New York through Teach for America. It is a wonderful and noble program and Kate is honored to be selected to be a part of it.

Today's Word of the Day is: flow.

May 6, 2008 Flow
Friday morning we wove our way through the asphalt veins of Salt Lake City, up toward the mountains like blood flows to the heart. Deep red blood. A steady stream of parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, spouses and children and aunts and uncles; we lined up like platelets, like symbols in a DNA strand and jumped into the flow that pooled in the Huntsman Center at the U of U. We planted ourselves in a row of red seats just before the music started. Trumpets sounded and everyone stood. Over to the right of us a whole section was filled with robed youth, their square mortar board hats looking like a mass of black pixels on an HD screen. Among them was our Kate.
Against the music, with pomp and ceremony, a thin flow of knowledge slid across the wooden floor below us. Professors draped in robes of many colors; bright blue and deep royal purple, gold and crimson red. Some wore hats, caps flopped to the side of their heads in a slightly sacred manner. Layers of fabric, each one added upon in the order of bestowed degrees, the colors of their Alma Maters and various honors and fellowships. Cords dangling; arms striped with heavy velvet like the thick blue-lined school paper we learned to write our names on. I have been the parent in many of these ceremonies. This is our last child to earn her first college degree. There are robes hanging in the closet in our basement in all colors and sizes. Every time I come I am moved. Emotion rises up and spills and I am every time taken aback. I am allowed, for this little spot in time, to witness the representation of life-threads weaving across each other. In that flow of professors that cross the wooden floor; in the mass of black robed graduates sitting before them. I am touched by the exchange of knowledge that has consumed their lives for so long; daily; hourly; word by word. I am compelled to be still and inhale. Likely it is the convergence of many emotions that makes it so meaningful to me: the end of an era for our child; a moment of reflection on the last how-many years; the opening of a new doorway for someone we cherish. But it is as much the purity of this unique human experience of exchanging knowledge that makes me shiver with reverence. As one by one graduate’s names were called, we watched like angels looking over the edges of heaven.
Making their way back to their seats they passed their professors, lined up before them. Dipping out of line they reached out to each other with handshakes, with embraces, with salutes and bows and high-fives. Like the passing of a torch. Like the breaking of the bread. Like blood taken from one vein and poured into another which is lacking. Like rivers and streams all gather at the ocean. We stood there in our high-up seats and watched and wept.
We finally found Kate, lined up on the floor awaiting the calling of her name and the bestowal of her diploma. One of over 1,000. As I watched her and her classmates stream past the deans, I thought of the confetti blasters Mark Robinette created for the Clytie Adams ballet recitals and the 4th of July shows he produces. He loads handfuls of paper confetti into long white tubes and at the proper moment, on the exact downbeat of the designated measure of music, the confetti goes flying through the air. I imagined graduates, like confetti, floating all across the stage of the world and landing in new and exciting places. Kate? She will land 25 hours away by car. Too far for this mother-heart, but closer than Hong Kong, in more respects than just miles. She will take her diploma, still smelling of fresh ink, and file it in some drawer in her desk. She will take her equally fresh ability to learn and set it to work. And too, she will take her ancient tender heart and give it full out to the children of Houston, many of whom will not know what to do with tenderness. She will teach them, unawares, about the flow of love, hidden like Easter eggs under the words of the English language. She will become the vein. The flow of knowledge will come through her, past her very large and capable heart, and nourish the blood of a hungry, longing child. An honor, indeed.